South African Journal of Higher Education

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Prior learning assessment and quality assurance practice: Possibilities and challenges

MJ Motaung, WJ Fraser, S Howie


The use of RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) in higher education to assess RPL candidates for admission into programmes of study met with a lot of criticism from faculty academics. Lecturers viewed the possibility of admitting large numbers of under-qualified adult learners, as a threat to the institution’s reputation, or an erosion of academic standards. Although RPL rests on the assumption that some equivalency between prior learning and academic learning is possible, RPL assessment and validation demands special expertise, which few faculty academics and administrators possess. An evaluation of the RPL assessment practice in the Faculty of Education at a South African University is used to substantiate the arguments raised in this article. Findings from interviews with assessors, observations of the assessment process, questionnaires administered on RPL candidates and documents analysed indicated that there is a credible process of RPL
assessment in this Faculty, with a few areas of concern.
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